Curiosity touches down on Mars

Latest NASA rover successfully lands on the surface of Mars
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NASA has landed its latest robot rover Curiosity on Mars.

Touching down at 05:32 GMT, the rover is reported to have landed deep within a crater on the surface of the planet near its equator.

With eight years of planning behind the project and a 254 day journey for Curiosity through space, the rover will spend the next two years exploring the planet, searching for evidence that Mars may have previously supported life.

It will explore the central mountain within the planet's Gale Crater, studying rocks that have existed for billions of years in the presence of liquid water.

With its price tag of $2.5 billion, Curiosity is equipped with some rather impressive kit.

Looking past its 200MHz on-board computer and several cameras with 4GB flash cards, the rover also boats a robotic arm, drill, sample scoop and various other state-of-the-art instruments to complete its high-tech arsenal.

It is powered by a plutonium battery - an upgrade over the solar-panelled power systems used on previous vehicles and could continue to power the rover for up to 13 years.

However, the most impressive aspect of Curiosity, is its ability to be remotely upgraded, which has already occurred once during its flight through space.

As technological advancements continue to occur on Earth, it is possible to beam the latest software upgrades to the rover, prolonging its life and increasing its efficiency.

The ability to upgrade a device remotely, particularly one hurtling through space at speeds of 20,000km/h, 570 million kilometres away from Earth is impressive to say the least and just highlights the possibilites of advancing technology.

After completing its landing, Curiosity began to stream its first low-resolution images back to Earth, which triggered a nail biting 13 minute wait for the rover's team.

"We're on Mars again, and it's absolutely incredible," said Nasa administrator Charles Bolden. "It doesn't get any better than this."

Whilst the Curiosity project is initially funded for just two years of operation, it is widely expected that the mission will continue for close to a decade and more.

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